Thursday, February 28, 2013

Music - Last day of the Family History Writing Challenge.


My father played in the Michigan Symphony Orchestra. As a student at Michigan State, he was studying music when World War II began. Like many of the "boys", he enlisted in the Army before he was drafted. When he came home from the service, he was engaged to be married and continued his education at USC, majoring in Accounting.

You have to wonder what he would have done had his education been uninterrupted. Music was a big part of his life and a part of ours. I found a picture of my dad, uncle, and grandmother taken in November 1944, with furlough written on the back. I don’t remember a piano in Granny’s house but there it is in the picture. There is sheet music in the background and the keys are exposed. I don’t know who played it besides my dad.

 In our house, we had several instruments. We had the piano, the flute, the clarinet, and Dad’s favorite, the piccolo. My brother made a half-hearted attempt at playing the violin and I think, the trumpet. We were glad when he moved on to other interests. My mom came from a musical family and was always singing or playing the piano. Like my dad, music defines who I am and I majored in music in college until life got in the way. I played in our high school band and sang in the choir.

Music was always in our house and the favorite music was the hymns. When we weren’t at church singing, we had people over or went to their houses to sing. I grew up in a small community, isolated from the larger cities around us. We knew everyone and all attended the same church.  

I wish that I had paid more attention to the music in my grandparent’s home. I don’t remember them being musical and even when I spent summers with my grandmother as a young adult, music seems absent to me. I know that there was no piano in my uncle’s house. He lived in Billings, Montana too but I do know that when we took my grandma to church, they sang with gusto. If music was important to my dad, it had to be fostered by his parents. What did music mean to them? For the Tennessee family, where did music fit into their lives?

Just before my mother passed away, I wrote a poem for her.
When I was just a little girl my momma sang to me.
She’d sit at the piano, I’d sit upon her knee.
She’d sing the old time music, she’d learned when she was young.
That’s how I learned the melodies she taught me how to hum.

And when the nights were stormy, with lightening all around,
my daddy’d take the chairs and things and place them on the ground.
He’d make us tents and shelters and put a record on,
that matched the stormy weather, till all the fear was gone.

Now I am grown and I have kids who sing along with me,
I taught them how to sing the songs my momma taught to me.
And when the nights are stormy, we often make tents too.
That is what’s important, what I want to share with you.

Fame is not important if forever is your aim.
Traditions live forever, handed down like family names.

So when my kids are grown up,
I really hope to see.
The children of my children
sing my momma’s songs to me.
I was blessed to be able to share this with my mother. I was also blessed that after adopting my grandson, one day he started singing one of my mother’s song. He was small and wanted to know why I was crying.

Music has to transcend generations. Knowing nothing about the music from the Rhea’s of Tennessee, I thought I would look at 1918, the year the letters were written. I was pleasantly surprised to find several of the top songs for the period were some that I knew, not just the names but the songs that we sung in our house when I was small. 

The short list includes:

“Rock-A-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody” This was recorded by Al Jolson on March 13, 1918. It was from a musical called “Sinbad”.

“I’m always Chasing Rainbows” came from the musical “Oh, Look”. The show opened in March 1918. Using the music from Frederic Chopin, it was published in 1917.

“Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning” is an Irving Berlin song written in 1918. He wrote this while in the Army and everyone in the Armed Forces knew this. Irving Berlin is and has always been one of my favorite composers.

“Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here”, was published in 1917 and words written by D. A. Esrom to a turn from the 1879 opera “The Pirates of Penzance”. 

But my favorite of all is “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Although an older song, written in 1861, it used the melody from the song, “John Brown’s Body”. Julia Ward Howe wrote the words at the end of the Civil War. In 1918, it was rerecorded by the Columbia Stellar Quartet and spent 6 weeks on the US Billboard as #1.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His truth is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
his truth is marching on."

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
his truth is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

I like that this song ties us all together. As a family, my dad, mother, brother, and I sang this in a church service. We sang all four parts because that’s how we sang everything. While not knowing anything about my great grandmother’s musical taste, I can say with certainty that she was familiar with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” And in the same way that my grandson sang my momma’s song to me, the tradition of the music carries on.

Music to share – The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has a beautiful version of this song.



Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Continuity - Day 27 of the Family History Writing Challenge

Throughout Martha Jane's life, there were wars. Although she didn't live to see World War II, she certainly saw the devastating effects of the Civil War and World War I. In 1918, when she wrote the letters, World War I was just ending.

She writes on January 1, 1918:

“Leona’s and Della’s boys all right since the armistice was signed. Don’t know when they will be at home, Perhaps not soon. Roy Hatfield says he is homesick.”

Roy Hatfield was her grandson, the son of her daughter Della. In the picture: Victor Rhea, Martha’s son, her grandson Roy (son of Della), her granddaughter Mossie (daughter of Victor), and a neighbor child.  
Roy registered for the draft on June 5, 1917 and served from September 20, 1917 to April 12, 1919. He was 22 years old when he registered. The registration form says he was tall and stout with blue eyes and yellow hair.


I don’t think that Roy had been discharged when the photo was taken but his homecoming would not be as hoped. During the war, he had been part of the group that had been attacked with Mustard Gas. I don’t pretend to know anything about it other than, many times, it was fatal. That was not so with Roy. He survived the attack but soon after returning home, he was sent to the US National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. The diagnosis there was arthritis.  

We know that he was back in Sneedville in October 1919 because Martha writes:

“Roy and Sam still running trucks.”

Sam was Roy’s younger brother and both of them worked for the mining company. I haven’t spent much time with Della’s family other than to document the notes my mom made when she went to Sneedville, Tennessee in 1982. There are many missing details but what struck me about the family was the amount of tragedy is a small space of time.

My friend started Ancestry.com yesterday and found some information right off the bat that her mom has been lying to her for years. I told her that she would find things that might be upsetting. Today, the Hatfield’s upsets me.

Roy Hatfield died in 1938 at the age of 43 by committing suicide. One has to imagine that the war had something to do with his state of mind and health.

How sad for the family so I thought I’d look at the rest of the kids.

Jessie Hatfield is hard to find. We have a birth year for her but no death date.

George Dewey Hatfield is the next in line. He had moved from Tennessee to Indiana and died at the age of 69.

Sidney Hatfield is next. We only have the year of his birth but no other information is available. However, the notes we have say that he committed suicide.

John Hatfield lived to age 82 in Indiana.

The next sister was Carrie Hatfield. There is not much information for her either.

Next comes Sam Hatfield who Martha mentions in her letters. We have no death date for him either. Again, there are more notes that say he had cancer and committed suicide.

Edna Hatfield lived to the age of 92. According to the note left on Find A Grave, her granddaughter posts a glowing report of how wonderful her grandmother was.

Grant Hatfield also moved to Indiana and lived to be 72.

Ray Hatfield, age unknown died of lung cancer.

Luke Hatfield had also captured my attention because Martha said he “Favored Wm a great deal.” William was my grandfather. Unfortunately, Luke died in 1937 at the age of 18 in a car accident.

We have Roy, Sidney, and Sam who committed suicide. Ray died of lung cancer and Luke died in a car accident.

Della Hatfield was her mother’s child. She was also a strong woman who had the ability to rise above whatever life threw at her. However, the saddest part of all is when Mack Henry Hatfield was 81, he also  committed suicide. We don't know why but maybe he just couldn't deal with the death of his 5 sons. It is one of the things I want to find out when I make the trip to Tennessee. So much heartbreak but Della hung on for another 15 years and died at the age of 83.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Faith – Day 26 of the Family History Writing Challenge




We are in 6th grade this year and studying ancient history and the beginnings of the world’s religions. Ok, our grandchild is in the 6th grade and studying history. However, after learning it myself more than 50 years ago and then learning with my boys, we are now doing it all over again with our grandchild.

I am much older and wiser and know a bit more about Confucianism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Our 6th grader is at the age to question belief systems and how they relate to him. He wants to know if it is wrong to learn about the other beliefs. I tell him no. I questioned my basic Baptist beliefs. My preacher grandfather told my mother it was all right to question hers. It’s a normal right of passage.

He asked recently why my beliefs are Christian and not one of the others. My response; underneath all the dogma, all belief systems are similar. He is free to choose which one fits in his life. Christian belief is a choice and must be made freely. He has asked for the “bible” for each one and I will grant his wish.

What does this have to do with family history?

When I found my grandmother’s letters, I was instantly struck by the passage she wrote on January 1, 1919.

“Wm, I am 71 years old this morning and I want to talk to my absent children. What I can and truly hope that when the end of their road is as near is Sight as mine they can Rejoice as I can, that Rest is near.”

Martha Jane was tired. She wanted William to come home but beyond that, there was no fear of death. She had already made peace with her maker. I find that comforting and based on my belief system, know that when I get to Heaven, she will be there to greet me. However, rest was not as near as she thought because she lived another 10 years.  

When she passed away, my grandfather wrote on May 30, 1929:  

“It was very depressing news of Mother being dead. Yet we all must answer the Summons when it comes.” Grandpa also believed.

Family history is more than dates and times. It is an affirmation of who we are and where we came from. My beliefs tie me to my great grandmother, her sons, my parents, my children, and grandchild. What matters to me is that my beliefs were shared with my earlier ancestors. Many of the Rhea’s were preachers. Many of my mother’s family were preachers. Yet, all of us questioned our beliefs.  

This was graphically illustrated when my 2nd cousin sent me the pictures he found. There are picture of my grandfather’s brother, Victor, being baptized in the Clinch River.


  









 














He was not a young man. I don’t know why he was baptized so late in life but that’s irrelevant. What counts it that he walked in the same path that I have chosen. While we spend time living our lives, the thread of belief runs deeper than any of us realize. Understanding that allows me to encourage my grandchild to look at the all the belief systems. Whatever he chooses will be right for him, even if he is as old as Victor when he makes his decision. He will know that those who have gone before him will welcome him with opened arms.  

Monday, February 25, 2013

Flood - Day 25 of the Family History Writing Challenge



This is harder than I thought. The more I write, the more holes I find in my research and I have to go back and track down the missing pieces. The information that Sheldon has provided has been a great help but it also points out missing pieces.

We are planning a trip to Tennessee. Hopefully, if we get there, we can find some of the missing information. It appears that most of the records we need are in the Knoxville and Nashville archives. What are missing are the birth and death verifications that would make this so much easier. 

Back to the story of Martha Jane. In her letters, she mentions the river being high. They had a river farm but it is hard to understand if you live on the flatland without water being close by. Some of the pictures that we got today are of a flood in Sneedville in 1963. The only difference I can see in the pictures is that the road is paved and there are electrical lines. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been much different in the 1918 flood. 



This is the house. Like I said before, it will not be moved. The water is lapping at the porch but not getting through. Hardy people build hardy homes. 


Pictures – Day 24 of the Family History Writing Challenge



Sheldon Livesay, who runs Of One Accord, an outreach ministry and food bank in Rogersville, Sneedville, and Church Hill, Tennessee, is my 2nd cousin. He is a busy man who has joined me on my journey and found, like I said in an earlier post, documents and pictures. He has been scanning photos into his website.

The photos are a treat. People who were just names have faces. They lived in homes and played on the river. There is a picture of my grandfather’s brother, Victor, being baptized in the river. They photos offer comfort.

My grandfather left Tennessee and moved to Montana, far away from the family. Cut off from the Tennessee family, us kids grew up without knowing much about them. We were an insular family with just the three brothers. My uncle Ralph, stayed in Montana, married Bernice, but had no children. My uncle Howard, move to the San Francisco area and had five kids. My parents moved to Southern California with just my brother and I.

I have been playing with genealogy for a long time and I can recite names and dates from memory. Now, for the first time ever, these have become real people. Today on day 24, I am posting some of these remarkable images.

Let’s start with Sheldon. I cannot say how grateful I am for his help.



Sheldon in the grandson of Victor Edwin Rhea, brother to my grandfather William Ogden Rhea. Victor married Cornie Hutson.



Victor and Cornie had three daughters. The oldest is Jewelle. In the letters my great grandmother wrote to my grandparents, she mentioned that Jewelle sucked her thumb. Before ever seeing a picture of her, she had already become a real person. Tidbits like that make the research fun. Opal is the next sister and Mossie (Sheldon’s mother) is the youngest.



We don’t have many pictures yet of Washington Floyd Rhea, another of grandpa’s brothers. I am also in search of pictures of Martha Jane. I have two in my possession but Sheldon posted another.

This is Floyd Rhea, his wife Elisa and three of their seven boys, John, Guy, and Homer. Martha Jane Rhea is on the left. Floyd’s youngest son, Robert is 90 and still living. His wife June and I have begun writing to each other. She says they have been married for 71 years.  



This is so exciting. What is even better is I am not alone anymore. I have help from my cousin Patty and Sheldon. Even June is willing to help although Robert has dementia and doesn’t remember much, she has shared a little of her life and childhood. I appreciate her so much.




Accurate Research - Day 23 of the Family History Writing Challenge



In the midst of this writing challenge, I was sidetracked. In fact, this is catch-up. I was asked to update a tree on Ancestry.com for a family member. She doesn’t have the time right now to do the detail work. It’s fun and easy for me and my tree is pretty complete.

I pride myself on getting the facts right. I check names and dates. I check ethnicity. I double-check dates. I say that twice because I found that my great, great, great grandfather died 15 years before his son was born. What?

All right, I delete the death date I have and make a note to go back and see where I went wrong. I continue with her tree. Why are there three Martha Jane’s? There are three of a lot of the people. I can see why her tree needs help.

I flip back to my tree. I have three of some people too. Where did I go wrong? It seems that in my haste early on, some of the more distant relatives were double on the family trees I added. Back then, I wasn’t as careful.

It helps to pay attention. I no longer add references twice. I am very careful but after doing this challenge, I am so familiar with the family names that I know when they’re wrong. That doesn’t mean I get it right. The name “Rhea” is not that common but in Tennessee, it seems that all of the men are named “John Rhea.” Honestly, I get the handing down the name thing but in ten generations, there are eight!

So how did John Rhea’s father die 15 years before he was born? Obviously, I have the wrong John Rhea but with so many to choose from, which one do I pick. They are all born within 20 years of each other. That seems like an easy choice but there are variables.
For example, my great grandmother married her second cousin. That’s a chart I had to diagram to understand.

Martha Pricilla Rhea                and her brother               John Elijah Rhea Jr
1790- 1850                                                                  1804 – 1859

Married                                                                        Married

John McColloam                                                          Lucy Anderson
1773 – 1850                                                                1808 – 1865

(Already, there are new things to research. Martha and John McColloam died the same year. That’s a clue for something, another thing to add to the why list.)

They had:                                                                     They had:

James Northcross McColloam                          John Carter Rhea
1820 – 1898                                                                1842 – 1884   

So far so good, James and John are cousins. This is where it gets interesting. James is 24 years older that John.                           

Married                                                                        Married

Mary Polly Gray                                                           Martha Jane McColloam
1825 – 1888                                                                1848 – 1929   

They had:

Martha Jane McColloam

Martha Jane and John Carter were contemporaries. Regardless of the family relationship, they were both the same age. There were plenty of other choices for either of them but who knows what draws people together. That’s another thing to add to the I want to know list. You will also notice that there are three John’s. UGH! (As an aside, Martha and John had nine children. None of them are named John.)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Annual Decoration Day – Day 22 of the Family History Writing Challenge



A quote from Wikipedia:

“Annual Decoration Days for particular cemeteries are held on a Sunday in late spring or early summer in some rural areas of the American South, notably in the mountains. In cases involving a family graveyard where remote ancestors as well as those who were deceased more recently are buried, this may take on the character of an extended family reunion to which some people travel hundreds of miles. People gather on the designated day, put flowers on graves, and renew contacts with kinfolk and others. There often is a religious service and a "dinner on the ground," the traditional term for a potluck meal in which people used to spread the dishes out on sheets or tablecloths on the grass. It is believed that this practice began before the American Civil War and thus may reflect the real origin of the "memorial day" idea.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Day)

As a child, I remember Decoration Day. We must have been in Texas visiting my mother’s family. I don’t remember a lot about it other than it had to do with food. I do remember the tablecloth on the ground with dishes full of great flavors. Now, this tradition seems to be a long lost memory.

We are planning a trip to Tennessee and I will have the opportunity to visit the grave of my great grandmother and other family members. Since Memorial Day falls into the period for the proposed trip, Decoration Day takes on additional meaning, I can see us having a picnic at the graveside. Decoration Day or not, we would still be going there to honor those who have gone on before. This just adds the tradition that I am sure was done in their time. Somehow, it seems to bring us closer.

The whole genealogy, family history trek started out with just birth dates, death dates, marriage, and children listed on a page. While it was gratifying to learn about these ancestors, it somehow was not enough. I really wanted to know these people, who they were, what they dreamed of, what they wanted.

I was fortunate to find some letters and documents to aid in the research. I searched my memories for stories and compared notes with other family members. I was lucky enough to find more distant cousins who were interested and learned what I could from them.

I am an excellent researcher if it is on-line. However, I am a total novice when it comes to physical research. Planning a trip to Tennessee where there are additional records is difficult. I need to refine my search techniques to know where to start. At least, the cemeteries are a good place to start.

The Depew Cemetery is in Sneedville, Tennessee is where we will have our picnic and meet Martha. Sarah Ellen (McColloam) Depew is there. She is Martha’s sister. James Northcross McColloam and Mary Polly (Grey) McColloam are there too. They are Martha’s parents.

Febra Northcross, the Indian maiden who walked off the Trail of Tears is buried in the Rhea Hollow Family Cemetery. She married John Rhea Sr. It is said that this cemetery is hard to find but someone in the family has to know where it is and we will find it.

The thought of celebrating Annual Decoration Day appeals to me on many levels. I am researching these people. They are family. Spending time, even with only the headstones, puts me in the trails they once traveled, getting me one-step closer to who they were.   

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Trip to Tennessee - Day 21 of the Family History Writing Challenge

Today I am not going to make my word count. In fact, I didn’t even open Ancestry.com to verify my facts. Instead, I played with Google Maps and information on flights. I looked a bed and breakfast my cousin found and spent all day emailing her with how we could make this trip.

Patty and I are planning a trip to the places I have only been writing about. We are planning to meet the people who are family that we don’t know. We are hoping to find the old house or at least the property where our grandfather grew up. We want to go and visit Martha Jane and Grandpa’s brothers who are buried there too.

We want to take in the surroundings and breathe the air that they did. Patty lives in the San Francisco area and I am in Southern California. We have trees and very large mountains but the Appalachians are foreign to us. We want to see the Clinch River where it climbed the banks on the crops.

We want to see the town where they would have gone for supplies and gatherings. We want to see our grandfather’s life in a way that we can’t on paper. It is a time for discovery. While we may not learn any more about Martha Jane, we can learn about her through her surroundings.

The Rhea’s have lived in the bit of country for a very long time. According to some records, they were the second family that settled in Sneedville.

Besides, we just found a quilting trail. That’s all I need to know!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My grandpa has a voice – Day 20 of the Family History Writing Challenge

We have been blessed this week with a second cousin in Tennessee who found a treasure trove of documents. A big thank you goes to Sheldon Livesay for his time and willingness to join in our search. I now have copies of deeds for property bought and sold in the 1800’s. This is interesting because although I don’t have any clue about plot lines and boundaries, I can find out. For instance, Sheldon found the deed where John Carter Rhea bought 75 acres on April 19, 1883.

However, the most exciting find was the letter my grandparents wrote to Victor Rhea on May 30, 1929. What tugged at my heart was the reference to Martha’s death on March 22, 1929.

My grandparents (as far as I know) never went back to Missouri or Tennessee. They were unhappy places for her. We wondered if my grandfather had even been back to see his mother. He left in 1914 so it would have been 14 years. We still don’t know the answer. What we do know is Grandpa traveled without my grandmother. When we were children, we used to visit him in Mesa, Arizona while Granny stayed home to tend to business. Grandpa had tuberculosis and the desert air was better for him than the long cold Montana winters.

In discussing my grandfather with my cousin Patty, we discovered we don’t know much about him. She has a few memories and I have some but it doesn’t tell us who he was. He was a very quiet man, not given to long speeches or idle chat. He was very tall and very trim, hence his nickname “Slim”. My grandmother was the driving force. She was an astute businesswoman and had several business interests.

The letter is the first we’ve seen in his handwriting. My grandmother wrote all the letters to my parents. This is the first time that Patty and I have heard from him in his own words.

He starts his portion of the letter talking about the farm. While we visited them in the house they built in 1932, in 1929, they were still living on the farm away from downtown Billings. Grandpa was employed full time by the railroad so the workload he carried would be staggering today.

He had just planted 600 pounds of potatoes, over an acre with Bantam Sweet Corn, and still had an acre to plant with miscellaneous vegetables like carrots and onions. He talks about taking care of the chickens. Then he writes,

“It was very depressing news of Mother being dead. Yet, we all must answer the Summons when it comes.”
We were shocked that of all the letters that must have been written, this is the one that survived. It answers some questions and provides very real emotions, which can’t be gleaned from the drier facts.

William goes on to ask,

“What did they do with Dow Arnold for killing James Willis?”

I have no idea what that’s about but because my grandfather wanted to know, so do I. It will not make any difference in my family history but it just adds flavor and texture to the story.

My grandmother wrote the second half of the letter. Her handwriting is instantly recognizable. She starts with the pleasantries and then says,

“It made us sad to hear of Mother’s death and what hurt most was that Wm had neglected to go to see her. I often urged him to go but he always said it hurt his mother so to have him leave her again. He would have gone if he had knew she would lived as long after Leona wrote him but it is always like that. Something to regret.”
Apparently, they, (Victor and Cornie) offered her the robe she had sent. She writes,

“No I don’t want the bathrobe. You do what you want to with it. I think Victor is entitled to the corn and what ever else they give him. He has been faithful to his mother.”

She then goes on to talk about the chickens she is raising and working in the garden. That is something else to research. If they were planting acres, what was in the garden?

The best thing about the letter is that for the first time, we know the emotions behind the facts. Grandpa was sad. Grandpa had regrets. Grandpa believed that everyone’s time on this earth was limited and accepted the death as a larger part of the universe. It was nice to hear from Grandpa. It was nice to hear Grandpa’s voice.



Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Money – Day 19 of the Family History Writing Challenge

My great grandmother was money savvy. Martha had lots of money tips for her son, William, and his wife, Mellie. I covered those on Day 16.

In her letters, she also shares details about the people around her and their transactions. I took these snippets from her letters dated November 22, 1918 and January 1, 1919.

“King Hutson paid 3900 for that piece of land after Ans Mathis had bought a strip next to him for 500 dollars, making that piece cost 4400. King Hutson let Samps Henry and Levi Hutson have it. John Jaynes paid 3000 for that strip between then and George Baker.”

King Hutson was Cornie’s father. She married Martha’s son Victor. I don’t know what “Samps” is but Henry and Levi are Cornie’s brother. Cornie had a sister named Cora who married so she would not have inherited the property either. This bit of information sent me on a lengthy search for Cornie’s parents. I had read King Hutson in the letters and knew Cornie’s last name was Hutson and I thought they might be related. However, my information on Ancestry.com did not support that. I started over again today and found that King was indeed Cornie’s father. I also found that all the sisters and brothers I had for him were wrong and had to be deleted. He does have three siblings. Alice and Amanda were spinsters and lived with his family until they died. What I found even more interesting is he is the third child and his name is King Samuel. That’s from the Bible. Although his older sisters have what I think are normal names, his is different, and his younger sister is Queen Elizabeth Hutson.

Martha’s next portion of the letter talks about her holdings and crops.

"Wm you can hardly imagine what this farm will be worth in 4 years from now. The timber and ore. By that time the timber will be scarce and ours will be a price. You can mine your own ore have it crushed or sell it Raise poultry and vegetables. They are leasing to other companies so I am told.

The Suckers where we raised tobacco is green and blooming. I have enough green mustard in the garden for 20 families. lots of garden huckleberries.

Wm, there is scarcely any more logs run, The people saw crossties a run them but not half what they did 2 year ago. Timber nearly all used up. We all have the most timber I know of. Frank Rhea is sawing for the co for 3.50 per day.”

The co (or the mining company) fills a portion of the letters.

“The co has made Henry Hatfield’s land worth something. Henry wont sell. The CO have paid all the second payments. They claim the mineral is fine.

Wm. Times is dull here now, not much doing. The mining people is going slow. wages for common work is 1.50, carpenter 3 or 3.50. They have built 15 swelling houses and is building a large building for the machinery and a large store house. A man by the name of Coberly from Joplin, M.O. is here to setup their machinery. His family is here. They claim to have one million and quarter dollars worth of mineral in sight.”

She writes about the Hatfield’s. They were not only neighbors; her daughter Della married Mack Hatfield, the son of Henry. Mining was the biggest thing in town and one of the reasons my grandmother did not want to live there.

Martha worked hard for her survival but she did well.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Source verification - Day 18 of the Family History Writing Challenge

Verification of sources

This is mostly a note to me. My wonderful cousin who found the documents did another search yesterday. In doing so, he found several more papers and some very old pictures. Most of them are unidentified but several have names. He is going to try to find out who they are. In the meantime, he sent this list. I know the names and have them on Ancestry.com What I found interesting is several of the dates are the same but some are different. I don't know who wrote it or when it was written so I don't know what sources are correct. Since we are often faced with unsubstantiated documents, deciding or determining what is right can be difficult.

The question I am struggling to answer is does it really matter if the dates are off by a few days? Written records for the times were not very accurate. Even the transcribed documents that have made it to the Internet can be wrong as well. My father loved to play with the fact that his actual birth year was incorrect. He teased my mother he was seven years older when in fact it was only six. We know the correct year simply by the date they arrived in Montana. Beside, my grandma said it was wrong and we never disputed anything she said.

In the list below, all of the family members were "Borned or Bornd". While the spelling seems incorrect to me, it does show someone was educated enough to write this down.

Sterling Rhea was Borned March the tenth 1827

Elisa an Rhea was Borned October the 10, 1829 (Elizabeth Ann)

James A Rhea was Borned April the 7th, 1832

George W. Rhea was Borned September the 13, 1834

Abijah Rhea was Borned November the 4, 1836

Jesse Rhea was borned February the 22, 1839

John C. Rhea was bornd March the 2, 1842

Robert F. Rhea was bornd May the 11, 1844

Sela Jane Rhea was bornd December the 8 (?) 1846

Saria Caroline Rhea was bornd November the 11, 1848

Lafayett M Rhea was bornd January the 6th 1851

John Rhea was bornd August the 30, 1813 father of above

Lucy Anderson Rhea was Bornd September the 3, 1807 mother of above

Some of the names are incorrect too but we know who they are. John C. Rhea was my great grandfather.

I don’t care if the dates are wrong. My cousin will be sending me a copy of the original handwritten document. It’s not so much the accuracy of the document, it is the fact that it is real. It is a tangible link to the past. I felt very much the same way when we visited Springfield, Illinois and visited Lincoln’s home. The docents shared that the banister on the stairs was original to the house and Lincoln had used it. It may seem silly but Lincoln touched it, as did we as we climbed the stairs and for only a second, the past became the present.

Family history is our desire to figure out who we are and how we got to where we are. My great grandmother’s letters are very real and in my possession. She wrote on the paper that I have the privilege to hold in my hands. She addressed the envelope. Martha Jane (McColloam) Rhea was a very real person and not just a mention in a census.

So a big thanks goes out to Sheldon for taking the time to join me in my quest. I don’t think he has any idea how much I appreciate him!


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Yippee! Day 17 of the Family History Writing Challenge

If I had a tail, it would be wagging! My second cousin Sheldon, who I just recently had the pleasure of meeting on-line, found a treasure. He found a metal box with wills and receipts from the mid 1880's. He says they are fragile and some have come apart at the fold lines but he will check out how to salvage these precious artifacts. He also found some letters that my grandmother wrote to Martha. This is the other side of the coin so to speak.

I have been writing based on Martha's letters. To have my grandmother's letters would provide her viewpoint. I don't think I'm too far off because I knew my grandmother but to have here actual thoughts would be amazing.

I woke up this morning thinking I had come to an end on my research. That in itself would not stop me from continuing with writing the family history. I am good at creative writing and I am leaning towards that style anyway. But hearing that there are more documents to review sets my head spinning. What a treat.

Today, I will not make my word count. It's baseball season and today is my day for registration. I will be spending a good portion of my day at the local pizza joint. Baseball is my child's passion. He eventually hopes to own the Dodgers but he is 12, so that might change. It doesn't seem likely. That has been his goal since he was six.

When I post this, it will go out into cyberspace. Future generations will not have to wonder what my child was like. As a writer on Squidoo, there are lots of pages about him. His adoption is well documented. He is really my grandson but on paper, he is my son. The Internet, for all it's faults, will make family history research much easier. I sort of wish it had been available in the 1800's. Oh well, I am good at research too.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bribery – Day 16 of the Family History Writing Challenge

In 1918, Martha writes that she wants to talk to her absent children. She doesn’t specify which ones so we are left to guess. Andrew died somewhere after his 14th birthday. Luvena died at age 37, five years before the letters were written. Laura was married and lived in Oklahoma. William (my grandfather) had married and in 1918, lived in Montana. Mary lived in the next county over. That left, Victor, Floyd, Lillie, and Della at home.

On November 22, 1918, she wrote to William:
“But I was expecting you to come. It is a heavy disappointment to me.”
She really wanted him to come back home. She is very aware of what is happening in the country. They didn’t have electricity so no radio but news was shared throughout the area.

Grandpa worked for the railroad and didn’t make a lot of money but Grandma was thrifty and could certainly make the money last. Still, Martha was concerned.
“I wanted you to come and try to farm or something that wouldn’t leave you on Starvation if you get sick. It troubles me more than I can tell you. To think if you get sick or hurt you would have nothing to ward off starvation. You never can save anything on Public Works. The next 3 years will be hard to live. Prices will be so high, and nothing growing to you will make hard times for you. If you can come I will rent the ground from the house down. Let me know soon. Wm, if you could see as I do you surely wouldn’t depend on Public works for a living.”
One of the things I remember my grandmother saying is that she didn’t want Grandpa to work in the mines. She was adamant about the mines and part of the reason they moved. Grandma would not have been pleased with the next part of the letter.
“Wm, I think this mineing Co will start things lively now the war is ended. They have brought in a boiler that has taken 2 month to bring it from the Mntn. They are mining and building. Some workhands are scarce. Della's Sam has been running their big motor trucks bringing supplies from the mountain.”
Changing tactics, Martha goes back to being self-sufficient.
“Wm, if you had a few acres of the Burk place or there close before the boom comes. Be we have here good enough if we could improve it and (unknown) it shape, we are just the proper distance. For all but school, I would like for you to tell me just what your think of it. I’ve yet have 5 good hogs to butcher I’ve thought you would come and killed a shoat weighing 160 lbs. Pork has been selling for 25 cts. I think corn will be 2 dollars.”

January 1, 1919 Letter to William:
While Martha shares family information, she is still trying to get them to move back.
“It is raining now. When it clears up Victor wants to kill 3 large hogs. I wish you and Nellie and Ralph was here to help. Wm, can you use home made tobacco. tell me I will send you some. Did you get the check for rents in my last letter.

Write me all you plans for the future Wm., couldn’t you buy cheaper from people in the country and save something.

Nellie could you raise a pig or can you have chicks. I would want one or the other. A pig would grow dollars fast. Come out here I will give you one. Is Wm working of a Knight yet. I wish he had a daylight job. Nellie write me often if nothing but a postcard. Tell Ralph I want him to come here and play with Jewel so I can write. She tries to help so much I cant hardly do anything for her. All of you come to see me.”

October 10, 1919

In the 1910’s the railroads were looking for reforms. In 1916, they secured the Adamson Act that provided 10 hours of pay for an eight hour day. They carried out a national strike in 1919 but the strike was not successful in making further changes. Martha is worried about Will’s safety and offers some advice and the invitation (again) to move back home.
“Wm, Tell me all about the strike will they bring you in it. If so, take no hand in the Rioting. Be just as quiet as you can. Spend some of your time writing to me or come and stay with me.”

We only have the five letters written by Martha to William. They cover only one year in the lives of these people.

My grandmother would never have gone back to Tennessee or Missouri where she was from. As I wrote in an earlier post, once my grandma made up her mind, it was all over. I can not say for sure if they ever went to Tennessee for a visit but if I were to hazard a guess, the answer would be no,

The letters make me sad. Martha tried her best to entice them back to Sneedville. I must have been hard for her. The girls all married young and although two of them stayed in town, they had their own lives to live. The boys all married when they were in their late 20’s or early 30’s. She got used to having them around. She wanted my uncle to grow up with the rest of the grandkids and would have enjoyed William's other two boys. However, it was just not meant to be.

Friday, February 15, 2013

World War I - Day 15 of the Family History Writing Challenge

Martha’s letters were written in 1918 and 1919. The war had been going for a while but the Selective Draft Act was not enacted until May 18, 1917. The Selective Draft Act was canceled in November 1918 at the end of the war.

Fortunately, for the family in Sneedville, there were no lives lost. Victor, Floyd, and William all registered for the third registration held on September 12, 1918. The first two drafts were for younger men up to the age of 31. The law was amended and the third draft allowed men up to the age of 45. While all of Martha’s boys registered, none were called to serve.

We have draft records for all three. The registrar in Sneedville was more diligent in his completion of the forms. In Montana, they were not quite as meticulous.

Victor registered at the age of 38 on September 12, 1918. He listed his address as Sneedville, Tennessee. It says he was married to Cornie and his occupation as a farmer. He was of medium height and weight with blue eyes and brown hair.

Floyd registered at the age of 45 on September 12, 1918. He listed his address as Sneedville, Tennessee. It says he was married to Elisa and his occupation as a farmer. He was also of medium build and height with blue eyes and brown hair.

William registered at the age of 36 on September 12, 1918. He listed his address as 104 So. 28th in Billings, Montana. I know he and my grandma lived at 124 No. 24th Street when I was a child so in 1918, they had not built the house yet. He was married to Mellie. He was of slim build and tall but no eye or hair colors were listed. His occupation was a mailman for the railroad. That’s another story too about how he was the one who hung the mailbags of the post for the trains to snag as they came by.

Martha writes on November 22, 1918:

“Surely you are rejoycing over the awful slaughter ending. Did you get questionnaire, Victor didn’t.”

(The World War I questionnaire project (Record Group 239) was part of an effort to gather and preserve the history of Tennessee's involvement in what was then known as the Great War. http://tennessee.gov/tsla/history/military/ww1quest.htm)

She writes again on November 25, 1918:

“Nellie, I am so glad Peace is made. Surely every person in the world is thankful. I suppose Roy Hatfield and Leona's boys are living, was the last I heard.”

As an aside, my grandmother’s name was Mellie. I don’t know if she purposely writes her name incorrectly or not. I am of the opinion that they would not have gotten along living in the same place so I have to wonder about the use of the name. I have the original letters so I know that it was not transcribed incorrectly.

On the letter dated January 1, 1919, she write again:
“I hope Peace will soon be made and made forever. Leonas and Dellas boys all right since the armstice was signed. dont know when they will be at home, Perhaps not soon. Roy Hatfield says he is homesick.”
The timeline for the wars states that on November 11, 1918, Germany signed the Armistice at Compiegne, France. The fighting is to end on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

On June 28, 1919, the Treaty of Versailles ends World War I officially. (http://history1900s.about.com/od/1910s/a/World-War-1-Timeline.htm)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Flu -Day 14 of the Family History Writing Challenge

Serendipity strikes. I had the good fortune to speak with June Rhea a few weeks ago. She is the wife of Robert Rhea, the last remaining child of Washington Floyd Rhea. He is 90 and has dementia. June says he gets frustrated when he can’t do the things he used to do. June married him when she was 16 and has been part of the family for 71 years. While she doesn’t remember much about Martha Jane McColloam (and that’s how she spelled it), she does remember other things. She promised that she would write and the letter came today. Having never been in Tennessee or met any one there, the letter brings the family closer.

One thing that struck me in the letter was a line about the family property. She writes, “It must have been a beautiful home…She must have had a big river bottom farm and had more than most people”.

It is the little tiny clues like this that spur me on. I know that Martha was resourceful. I know she bought land later in life and held on to the property she had. These little speculations add credence to what I already know. June is going to send me a picture of the home.

1918 was not the best year for Tennessee. The boys were returning from World War I. While that was a good thing, the winter had been particularly bad. They called it the Winterstorm. The Clinch River flooded in November 1918 and Martha wrote about it a letter she sent to my grandfather.

“The River got up on the bank corn and damaged a lot. We didn’t lose much as we had stock to ate it. But Victor had to pull and throw up higher all day in the rain to keep the water off it.”

Tennessee had already suffered a big flood in January. There would not be another flood to rival it until 1957.

However, the talk worldwide was the 1918 Flu Pandemic. It started around January 1918 and went away in December of 1920. They believe that 500 million people were infected and more than 50 million people died. The counts are not accurate as many of the deaths were not reported, especially those in the more rural areas.

Tennessee was not spared. There were 7,721 recorded deaths. The hardest hit area was Nashville. The DuPout plant in Old Hickory was a one of the biggest employers and became a hotbed for the virus.

Sneedville escaped the worst of it. The County Seat was more isolated and not close to the larger cities. Martha writes, in a letter dated November 22, 1918,

“Extremely glad you are well. I hope you will Escape the Flue. It has been all around as Several have Died. I hope it is abating. There is lots of sickness here the past month.”

Three days later, she penned another letter to my grandfather.

“We haven’t taken the Flue yet though it is all round us. Several have died. But I think the worst has passed, everyone that could stayed at home…Nellie, Keep close as you can Keep the Flu off if possible. some people Here sprinkle a little sulphur in their shoes every morning to keep off disease. Write me soon for I shall be uneasy”.
The flu was still a topic of conversation on January 1, 1919, when Martha wrote again, "There is a few cases of Flu here yet has killed several people but none closer us than Sneedville".

It was a concern for all of those who lived through the Spanish Flu. Treatments were non-existent and it was the start of the research into vaccines. They told people to stay home and closed businesses, churches, schools, and amusement areas. Many of the deaths were not from the influenza itself but secondary illness like pneumonia and other respiratory ailments. The treatment really hasn’t changed and the same advice remains today. Stay in bed, drink plenty of liquids, and take aspirin.

I don’t know what sulphur in the shoes would do but no one died in the Rhea family and for that we are grateful.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Proud heritage - Day 13 of the Family History Writing Challenge

One of the best things about contacting family you have never met is they have documents and pictures you have never seen.

When I first contacted Bill Rhea in Sneedville, it was uncomfortable. He was a stranger. However, family doesn’t stay strangers long and he had me call another 2nd cousin in Rogersville, Tennessee. Sheldon Livesay is the son of Mossie, the youngest daughter of Victor Edwin Rhea.

An aside here…Rhea men seem to share the same names. My cousin is Bill Rhea and his father is Howard, the son of William Ogden Rhea. The father of Bill Rhea in Sneedville is Howard Rhea also. Howard is the son of Washington Floyd Rhea. It is a mental shift to switch the familiar names to someone else.

Sheldon had lots of information and wonderful pictures. Let’s start with a picture I had.



The names are a little hard to read. The back row: William Ogden Rhea (my grandfather), Washington Floyd Rhea (Bill’s grandfather), Victor Edwin Rhea (Sheldon’s grandfather). Front row: Lillie Bower Rhea, Martha Jane Rhea, Luvena Rhea, and John (Floyd’s oldest child). This photo was taken before 1913.

I have pictures of my grandfather so I know what he looked like as an adult. Here is one, taken in 1947, I recently found.



Sheldon sent pictures of his grandparents and his wife’s parents. I don’t have a date for this picture but it is Victor, Cornie (his wife), and their middle daughter Opal.



While my grandfather and his older brother Victor do not look alike as younger men, as they got older, they started to resemblance each other. Somehow, that is comforting.

Sheldon also sent a family history complied a while back. The wording is old and I suspect that it was typed from handwritten notes sometime in the 1960’s. I haven’t gone through it yet but merely skimmed it. I can see where it is not correct but also see several names and dates to add to my history. Sheldon said to check out the last page. It is a summary created by the author. He said I would find it interesting.

Here is what it says:

"The Rheas as a family are not office seekers. They are Preachers, Lawyers, Doctors, Farmers, and Merchants. Only two of them ever held a high position in the State - John Rhea, the Congressman and William McAllister of Nashville, Tenn. on the Supreme Bench of the State of Tennessee. Twenty-four have been called by the King of Kings to preach his Gospel. Eleven ministers of the gospel have married into the family.

The Rhea family are all Presbyterians form the time they lived in Scotland and Ireland down to the year 1907. only a few have united with other Denominations, who went with their husbands.

They as a family were ready to shoulder their muskets when their Country demanded their services.

Two of the family served in the Revolutionary War.
Two in the War of 1912.
Three in the Mexican War.
And seventy did and perhaps more served in the Confederate Army in the War between the States 1861 to 1965.
Two served int the Federal Army.

It is said by their comrades, all did their part well, and not one turned bis back to the foe unless their commander ordered them to do so. Many were on the Staff of Officers, commanded companies, regiments, and battalions. Their followers had confidence in their leaders. Two were captured in the War of 1912. One died in time of the Mexican War.

In the Civil War, 1961 to 1865, one died from fever, six wounded in battle, two died from their wounds, four were killed on the battlefield, ten were made prisoner or were captured."


Sheldon knew I would also find the last page rewarding. As the writer of the family history was proud of his heritage, I find that after reading it, I am too.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Footnotes - Day 12 of the Family History Writing Challenge

Martha Jane Rhea was no stranger to tragedy. Losing her husband in 1884, when she was pregnant with her ninth child, must have difficult. When you plan for a baby, whether it is the first or the ninth, it is a joy for the parents. When she found it was a girl, John was not there to share with her.

Joseph Andrew Rhea was their oldest child. He was born in 1866 and is in the 1880 census at the age of 14. Then he disappears. One researcher thinks he might have been her grandfather but it appears to be incorrect. There are some name differences in the research. My mother found a family Bible when she visited Sneedville in 1982 saying Joseph died young and never married. We don’t know if he was still living when John Rhea was killed. That’s as far as it goes for him. A fire destroyed the 1890 census, which would have given us a better guess for time of death, so we may never know. The National Archives article "First in the Path of the Firemen: The Fate of the 1890 Population Census" has additional details.

Luvena Finetta Rhea was the 5th child of Martha and John Rhea. Born in 1875, she died in 1913 at the age of 37. There is not a death certificate available on-line so I don’t know how she died.

Washington Floyd Rhea, the 4th child, died in 1929, a month before his mother. His death certificate is not legible so there is no cause for his death. Washington Floyd Rhea is not a footnote. He had a large family with seven children to carry on his legacy. In fact, one of his grandson’s is a sitting judge in Sneedville, Tennessee.

We tend to ignore the footnotes. Joseph and Luvena did not marry and did not have children. The day they died, their history ceased to exist. To some extend, that happens to all of us but we forget they were real people.

My grandfather played with his older brother and sister. Then skinned their knees and stubbed their toes. They played tricks on each other. They probably got mad and called each other names. They were happy and sad and everything else in between.

Their lives have meaning. Even after they were gone, they lived on in the hearts of their mother, siblings, and other family members. They had friends who cared about them.

Anyone who researches their family history runs across these footnotes. They are only asterisks in a list of family members. They are in everyone’s family.

My cousin Gary died when he was 14. He is a footnote. He never married and died young. There is no more history for him either. However, he is not a footnote to me. He was younger than his sister and I and a nuisance like any other little brother. He was a real living person who bravely lived his life. To think of him as just one of those who left no legacy is incorrect. When I document him on Ancestry.com, there will be pictures and stories so that future generations understand that he was a very real person who lived on in our hearts.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Murder - Day 11 of the Family History Writing Challenge


My dad and his cousins Hugh and Howard in front of the Rhea family home in 1982. They are three of Martha and John’s grandchildren.


The dirt road snaked through the rolling hills and it was only when it made a bend that the house showed itself. If wasn’t that it was hard to find, it was the trees sheltering it from view. Upstairs on the balcony, the view of the river was always changing. It was a comfort to hear the rushing water unless it was raining. That was when the river became the adversary. It was a long ranging war, the river and the Rhea’s.

Built long ago, the house had earned its place on the dusty road. Floods had tried to take it but it stubbornly refused to move. The rocks that supported it would not give and the house remained firmly in place,

This is where most of the Rhea children were born. Martha and John built this house when the little house on the cliff grew too small for the family. It was in front of this house by the little tree that John Rhea died.

The leaves on the trees were turning along the Clinch River. It was September 21, 1884 and there was a definite chill in the air promising an early winter. Martha worked slower than usual. Seven months pregnant with her ninth child, she was grateful that the older children had stepped in to help.

The little ones needed tending. Leoni and Laura had taken on the task of getting Victor and William up and dressed. Della and Lavena spent more time in the kitchen learning how to cook. Martha had a chance to sit back and guide them as they made a mess with the flour. Children learned skills early in those days. Everyone helped.

Andrew and Floyd were out early with their father, storing corn for the winter. They were all in a hurry to be done with the days chores. John Brewer was coming with the deed to the land bordering their house and the river. John was excited about gaining access to the land. It had sometimes been a bone of contention between the Rhea’s and the Brewer’s. The Rhea farm had many acres but this one small piece would give them more room for river planting. They could extend their crops all the way to the bend in the river. With all the mouths to feed, this was a blessing.

The Brewer land wasn’t well marked and occasionally, the Rhea crops would encroach on their land. The Brewer’s usually waited until the corn was high and then harvested the errant corn as their own. It wasn’t that the Rhea’s were trying to steal excess land. Every year, they marked the boundaries but somehow the rocks would move or disappear on their own. It wasn’t healthy to complain so they pretty much let it slide.

When Brewer suggested that they make a trade, John was happy. It would not only give them more planting space, it would end the constant battle over the boundary. Using the bend in the river as a border was even better. The river didn’t change its boundary all by itself. Only the floods did that.

Brewer wanted John’s best rifle. The Hawken was almost as good as the more expensive Springfield’s and it was the weapon of choice for the Confederate soldiers. Handmade in St. Louis, John had purchased the rifle during his time in the war. The Hawkins was more accurate than some of the other mussel loading rifles out there. It was a much better rifle than any Brewer owned.

Dinner was done and cleaned up when they heard Brewer arrive. Martha heaved herself out of the chair and followed John out of the door. Instead of taking the stairs, she decided to wait on the porch. John, Andrew, and Floyd walked out to meet Brewer. The girls and younger children waited with their mother.

The two men shook hands. Martha couldn’t hear the conversation over the sound of the river but it looked like it was going well. Brewer walked back to his horse and retrieved the deed from the satchel. Walking back to John, he handed him the deed as John relinquished the rifle. He wasn’t sad about giving it up; he had saved up for the the much-prized Springfield.

John turned to look at Martha, a big smile on his face. Turning back to Brewer, the men shook hands and John started to walk away flanked by Andrew and Floyd.

As he reached the little tree, a shot rang out. Shocked, Martha looked to see who was shooting and saw John crumble to the ground. The two boys looked back to see Brewer run to his horse and gallop away. Martha raced to John’s side but he was already gone. Telling the kids to stay on the porch, she yelled at Andrew to get Uncle Sterling who lived about a mile away.

She sat on the ground, not feeling the chill in the air. She wondered what would become of them and then put all those thoughts away. To Floyd she said to go get a blanket. He brought her the quilt his dad had used in the war. She slowly got up, straightened her back as best she could, and covered John gently before climbing the steps to the porch.

She surveyed the faces of her children. Not one of them had made a sound. Putting her arms around as many of them as she could, she hustled them into the house.

“We will wait for Uncle Sterling,” she told them, “He will know what to do”

John Brewer killed John Carter Rhea on September 21, 1884. He shot his with his own rifle. The story goes that he fled to New Mexico to avoid prosecution but in fact, my 2nd cousin, Bill Rhea, has the original arrest warrant for John Brewer in Texas. John Brewer was never apprehended.

1021 words

The Gaulthair Children

My other blog, Missing Pieces: The Gaulthair Children needed attention. We are at a standstill on the other children that we have not found but the relationships between the siblings grow each day. It is a blessing to see that these people who were strangers becoming the brothers and sisters that they were meant to be. The Family History Writing Challenge has consumed my thoughts but we are still actively seraching for the other Gaulthair kids. I recently shared links on Facebook and Pinterest for two people who were looking for their birth parents. Now I think I will create a post and do the same. The other kids are out there, we just need to use the Internet for a broader search.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Relationships - Day 10 of the Family History Writing Challenge

No matter how many times the records are reviewed, the same names pop up. How is it my grandfather’s grandmother on his father’s side is Febra Northcross and his great grandmother on his mother’s side is Febra Northcross?

It took some time to diagram the relationship. It appears that although John Carter Rhea is the cousin of James Northcross McCollum, there is a twenty-year difference between them. That would make John Carter Rhea, a contemporary of Martha Jane Rhea. That makes him her cousin, once removed. It might have skipped my attention but the name Northcross turns up on both sides of the family tree. The life of Febra Northcross is a whole story all by itself.

Same story

This is a comment I posted on Ancestry.com on June 9, 2010.
“We grew up hearing a story about an Indian woman who left the Trail of Tears and became part of our family. Because stories are sometimes just stories, it was great to find that the story was passed on to a different branch of the family and that it might be true after all. “

This is the story that was posted.

From: "pferguso" Subject: [RHEA-L] RE: Febra story part 1 Date: Mon, 13 Jul 1998 20:21:13 -0400

“Here is part of an old letter I have: You know that little creek, Greasy Rock Creek, that flowed through Sneedville and emptied into the river, just across the river South from Greasy Rock was the first home of the Rhea family, that place was the crossing to and the north of the road up and down the Shenandoah Valley. The Clinch river head it (can't read word) the Bl??field country------Here where the Rheas settled, they had a River Station so called at that time. Kinfolks to our present day Motels. Here is where we can trace our Indian blood to. One of the family's sons was out hunting at the time the Government was moving the Indians out of Tenn and North Carolina to the so called "Indian Territory" at that time.

In watching the marching Indians near the crossing of Willow Creek- He saw an Indian girl (can't read word) behind some bushes, and let the other Indians pass on down river. This boy tried to make her to understand that he was her friend, but she was afraid to come out of her hiding place. He went to his home and told them of the affair. His mother went with him to see if she could do any good--she carried food and a blanket, left it near by and they returned home for the night. Next morning they returned to try again. Nothing worked. They had seen that the food they had left was gone, the blanket had been used--the boys mother didn't know what to do. So she began to sing and going back (can't read) to (can't read) their home. She would stop and beckoned toward the girl, at last she crawled out of her hiding place and followed them home.

They found she was just 16, could see that she was beautiful, they took care of her and taught her to speak their language to some extent. They learned that her grandfather raised her and that her parents were dead. Her grandfather lived near Clingman's Dome as you know that is now the Headquarters of the Cherokee Indians, but at the (can't read) of the Big (can't read) of the Indians to Indian territory it was wild mountain country. A few Indians hid out and didn't get sent to the territory--It was the law (can't read) who had married to the whites didn't have to go. This Rhea boy and this Indian girl fell in love and married. The boys name was John Rhea her name was Febra. Their children were Priscilla and Aquilla (twins) they were half Cherokee Indian.

This letter goes on but has no more Rhea genealogy. I am sending the whole letter to Don on this list and maybe he can make a copy to send to one other then they can make a copy and send on if anyone is interested. Letter written by Ida James in Texas to Ida Ferguson in KY both in their 80's and was written in the early 1960's.”

I had heard about this letter. I think my mother may have been contacted by the Don mentioned in the last paragraph. I am still cataloging her records so I may have it still to find. There is still a lot of correspondence to sort through.

When you find something that confirms what you might think is true is indeed a treat. There has been additional information posted on Febra’s family recently. It talks about Indian Chiefs but has not been verified. I am very cautious about what I post so until there is some sort of documentation to back it up, it is saved for later review.

In the meantime, back to the relationship between my great grandparents. It comes as a surprise that we have kissing cousins. I don’t know why it should because it was common. At least the relationship is finally clear.